Comic-Ventriloquist Wayland Flowers Dies of Cancer
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Ventriloquist Wayland Flowers, who brought life to a cackling, off-color puppet named Madame, died of cancer Tuesday, five weeks after collapsing on stage, his publicist said. He was 48.
Flowers died at 12:48 a.m., said publicist JoAnne Geffen. No funeral was planned, but private memorial services in Los Angeles and his hometown of Dawson, Ga., were being discussed, she said.
Flowers collapsed Sept. 2 on stage during a performance at Harrah’s resort in Lake Tahoe. Several days later, he was flown by air ambulance to Georgia to spend some time with his family, Ms. Geffen said.
It was unknown when he returned to Los Angeles.
Flowers had suffered from cancer for some time, she said, declining elaboration. The family asked that no other details about his death be released, she said.
The puppeteer created a cast of characters, but it was the craggy old hussy Madame, manipulated with rods rather than strings, that launched the popularity of the television and showroom act.
Wayland & Madame’s first big break came on ″The Andy Williams Show″ and led to guest appearances on the reincarnated ″Laugh-In,″ ″Hollywood Squares″ and a four-year stint on ″Solid Gold.″
Their own syndicated situation comedy ″Madame’s Place″ was shown in 1982.
″This was an underground act that took root and shot up out of nowhere,″ Flowers once said in an interview, adding: ″I’m an illusionist. I’m right out there on stage beside Madame, but within two or three minutes it seems that I disappear.″
Flowers also brought life to such characters as Crazy Marv, who had terribly accurate observations on humanity, Jiffy from Harlem with humor and song stylings, vaudevillian Mr. Mackelhoney and Baby Smedley’s high chair view of the world.
Flowers, whose full name was Wayland Parrott Flowers, leaves a sister, brother, and aunt.